Yorkshire were forced to settle for a second successive Specsavers County Championship draw as Essex’s tail continued to frustrate them at the start of day four at Emerald Headingley.
Like against Hampshire last week, Yorkshire had a slim chance of forcing a final day victory. But, unlike that game, they were unable to set up a victory target during the afternoon session.
The unbeaten White Rose took eleven points from their fifth game of the season and sit third in Division One behind Hampshire and leaders Somerset, the latter who they trail by 25 points.
They finished day four, curtailed by torrential rain at tea, on 107-1 from 42.5 overs of their second innings, which started 40 minutes before lunch. That was a lead of 188.
The umpires called an end to the game at 4.05pm, with Adam Lyth unbeaten on 56 and Gary Ballance not out 51.
Yorkshire’s inability to set up a late charge for a third win of the campaign owed much to Essex’s 10th-wicket pair Peter Siddle and Sam Cook batting for the first 70 minutes of the day to prolong their side’s first-innings reply to 390.
The frustration started at the end of Wednesday’s third day when Australian seamer Siddle lofted two straight sixes to take Essex from 223-9 beyond the follow-on target of 241.
The Chelmsford side started day four on 252-9, and they were finally bowled out for 309.
Siddle and last man Cook shared 86 inside 25 overs, meaning Yorkshire started their second innings with a lead of only 81 and 76 overs left in the day.
Siddle, in his second season as Essex’s overseas, posted 60 – his highest score for the county, while Cook’s career best unbeaten 37 included a sweetly timed pulled six off Ben Coad. The innings was wrapped up when Steve Patterson trapped Siddle lbw.
New ball seamer Jamie Porter had Will Fraine caught at first slip for a seven-ball duck in the third over of Yorkshire’s second innings, leaving the score at 1-1. And from there, the game drifted.
Lyth and Ballance advanced calmly against some tight bowling, although the former did pulled a short ball from off-spinner Simon Harmer over the deep mid-wicket boundary for six midway through the afternoon to move into the thirties (60-1 in the 26th over).
Porter limped off the field five balls into his 10th over, just as Yorkshire’s lead moved beyond 150.
With the game now drifting towards a conclusion under sunny skies, it was over to Lyth and Ballance to see if they could both secure their centuries – Lyth’s first of the season and Ballance’s sixth in as many Championship fixtures.
They reached their fifties within five minutes of each other inside the last 20 minutes of the afternoon – Lyth off 128 balls and Ballance off 105.
But rain unexpectedly arrived to cut short the afternoon by five minutes, and there was no more play possible.
Fourth-placed Essex claimed nine points to Yorkshire’s 11, and the gap between the two sides is now six points.
Yorkshire head to Guildford on Monday to face champions Surrey, who have suffered a sluggish start to the season to say the least.
They have lost two and drawn three from five, including defeat to Somerset at Guildford this week. Jack Brooks took five wickets to help wrap up an away win.
What they said…
Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale
“There were lots of positives, but frustration as well.
“Over the last two weeks we’ve played some really good cricket. Last week (against Hampshire), had we not lost time I think we’d have won that game. I’m not sure whether we’d have won this one. The pitch seemed to flatten out. But we were certainly in the box seat and drove the game.
“We had to make them follow-on to get a result. We missed an opportunity there dropping Siddle on nought. But these things happen.
“On the whole, we’ve played some really good cricket and deserved to be on the right side of the result.
“I’m not getting too carried away. But we are playing some good cricket and competing with the good teams in this division, Hampshire and Essex are good teams. We just have to keep doing it.”
Essex’s Sam Cook
“It was nice to spend some time in the middle. Sids batted unbelievably well as well. Coming into our partnership, it was the crunch point in the game. It could have gone either way having lost a few wickets for not many runs.
“It was nice to be able to swing the momentum back our way.
“I’m happy with my PB (37), and hopefully I can continue that form for the rest of the season.
“(10 overs late on day three when follow-on was secured effectively secured draw?) I think you’d look at it that way.
“Championship cricket can swing around very quickly, though. While you may think that secures a draw, if we’d come out in the first 10 overs of their second innings this morning and got three, four or five quick wickets, the game suddenly swings back to us.”